Be a challenger – whatever the size of your business

This is the year of the challenger. A headhunter told me this week that just five years ago, their best candidates wanted to work for major established brands – think Kraft, Coca-Cola or L’Oreal. Now they want to work for a hip digital upstart.


Justin Cooke, former chief marketer at Topshop, is a good example of this new breed of challenger. Last week, he launched Tunepics, a social network which combines music with images and aims to rival established services like Instagram.

Cooke, who worked at Burberry before Topshop, left retailing last year to set up his own digital business, Innovate7, which designed the Tunepics app. When I last met up with Cooke, he seemed to have the perfect role at Topshop – growing a global retail megabrand. But he was itchy to do something new, digital and bold.

Can Tunepics succeed in a social network space that includes Instagram and Facebook already? He has already converted a list of brands including Asos, Airbnb and Primark to the new service, along with celebrities such as Jamie Oliver and It will be certainly be a worthy challenger to the bigger networks.

Even career entrepreneurs see this year as an opportunity for them. Easyjet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou is planning a budget food store – easyFoodstore – to undercut chains such as Lidl and Aldi.

The concept of EasyFoodstore is simple. A store will stock around 100 items such as pasta, rice, cleaning products and tinned foods. Haji-Ioannou says the brand will test the concept with consumers and retail experts before deciding on any rollouts.

Can Stelios Haji-Ioannou succeed in retailing? Well, it wouldn’t be fair to underestimate him given past successes such as airline Easyjet and hospitality chain easyHotel, which announced its intention to float on the stock market last week.

Even the political system has seen the rise of its own challenger brand– UKIP – that dominated in the recent European elections. Whatever you think of UKIP’s controversial policies, its simple message challenging the other political parties have proved successful.

It isn’t only the business-to-consumer world that will see new challengers, though. The business-to-business sector will also be affected. We talk this week to the chief marketer of one of the most iconic global B2B brands – Bloomberg. Maureen McGuire, who spent 30 years at IBM, explains how she plans to seize opportunities and see off challengers with new, innovative forms of interactive marketing.

When we launched our list of visionary marketers last month – the Marketing Week Vision 100 in association with Adobe – many readers rightly complained of the lack of inspiring B2B marketers on the list. Bloomberg’s McGuire is our attempt to shine a light on some of the B2B marketers out there doing great work.

And if you want to network with the best challengers and established brands around, don’t forget to book your table for next month’s Marketing Week Engage Awards by visiting Don’t miss out.

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